What happens when your small group leader is a professional educator who teaches literature classes to high school Pre-AP sophomores and senior AP students? I found out the hard way—you get a pop quiz at church!
It happened to me a couple of weeks ago, but I won’t tell you what my score was. Let’s just say, I hope there is a curve on the final!
My group leader at church, Jeff Jordan is an ordained pastor whom God called into public education. He is an AP literature teacher at Guthrie High School and holds a Bachelor of Arts in English (OSU) and a Masters in Religious Education (SWBTS). He has the academic credentials as an educator. But he also has the heart of a pastor who wants to equip believers in their understanding of the Word.
One lesson I learned from Jeff is that the one time you can wrongly handle the Word and it is not considered sin is when you are on your own or in a learning environment as a student. Then you can learn from your mistakes (like taking a quiz). Wrongly handling the Bible becomes a sin when you try to guess what Scripture means without doing any studying and teach your uniformed hunches to someone else as biblical truth. Jeff takes seriously the Scriptural admonition that says:
“Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who doesn’t need to be ashamed, correctly teaching the word of truth” (2 Tim. 2:15 HCSB).
He’s been leading the small group of which I am a member for the last couple of years. I love the conversations he spurs us to have, and I love soaking up his insights.
And, being a professional, Jeff decided to see what would happen if he squeezed out a little of what he’s been putting into us by using a 50 question Bible literacy quiz.
Jeff gave us all 20 minutes to take the test. (That’s right, he timed us.) It was a little unusual to be taking a quiz at church, but our group did a great job.
I asked Jeff to respond to a few questions about biblical literacy from an educator’s perspective.
Q: Why should Christians test themselves on Bible literacy?
Jeff: Christians should test* themselves on Bible literacy, so that they know where they are deficient and can make adjustments in their Bible reading and Bible study. (They should also take into account the methods they have used and make adjustments there as well.)
If we regularly quiz ourselves, this helps us to also solidify what we do know and sink it deeper into our long term memory. Quizzing can happen in multiple ways, but as an English teacher I think we should work through some difficult doctrinal questions on paper—journal or write out our thoughts because this will help us go deeper within what we know.
*testing is a scary word for most people—I like the words “quiz or assess”
Q: What is at stake if Christians are not biblically literate?
Jeff: In short, the great commission cannot be fulfilled. One aspect of the disciple maker is “teaching them to observe everything I have commanded you” (Matt. 28:20a CSB). Believers must teach in order to reproduce, and we cannot teach truth that we don’t know.
Next, if we are not biblically literate, we are susceptible to false teaching. Peter reminds us that “There were indeed false prophets among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you. They will bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, and will bring swift destruction on themselves. Many will follow their depraved ways, and the way of truth will be maligned because of them” (2 Pet. 2: 1-2 CSB).
Q: What should Christians take away from the educational practice of testing and quizzing?
Jeff: We have to understand the purpose of testing and quizzing. The problem is that we went to school and learned a bunch of bad habits. When we understand the purpose, our valuable time can be maximized. Regular quizzing (and little quizzes work the best for most of us) helps us to retain what we are learning longer.
We cannot be afraid of getting an answer wrong; our Bible studies need to be places where we can make mistakes and correct them. Bible study leaders can quiz subtly by the questions that they ask or just give literature quizzes (multiple choice, etc.). We have to embrace hard questions and work to get the right answers to them.
Part of quizzing ourselves needs to be putting what we are learning into our own words (this is where journaling can be a huge benefit).
Learning science tells us that if we practice elaboration (elaboration is the process of giving new material meaning by expressing it in our own words and connecting it with what we already know), there’s no known limit to how much we can learn. Make It Stick by Peter Brown is a good book on this subject.
Q: What’s a good strategy for improving one’s Bible literacy?
Jeff: I think the number one thing is to read the Bible. I know this sounds like I am oversimplifying, but we need to read the Bible daily in chunks. Our primary text needs to be the Bible (devotionals have their place, but if we are reading more of what someone says about the Bible and not the Bible itself, we are in trouble). Other points I would include are:
- We need to be reading the Bible all the way through every year. As we do this, we need to vary the way that we do it. If you have never read the Bible chronologically, it needs to be done (but if you really want value from this exercise, work the chronology out for yourself—don’t just pull up what someone else has done and follow that plan).
- We need to regularly study the Bible. Most people don’t study the Bible regularly. They allow someone else to do it and then sit through the Bible study.
- Those of us who have learned to study correctly need to be teaching others to do the same. We need to be disciple makers. If we are to do this correctly, we will have to read and study.
You don’t have to be a professional teacher to take advantage of the principles of education in your personal study of scriptures. If you would like to try it, here’s a Bible quiz you can try. Here is another one. If you like these, a quick search on the internet will lead you to a lot more quizzes you can try.
Jeff makes some good points, if we don’t test ourselves, how will we know if we have learned?
Our church small group is considering bringing Bible trivia questions to our meetings sometimes and making our pursuit of Bible literacy a fun time of fellowship also.
That’s our plan. What will your small group do?